Jim Bob, John-Boy, and Me

If you’re familiar with The Duggars of Arkansas, the family with “19 kids and counting”, you may have looked at them like they’re crazy.  I know I have.  Packing up the family for a road trip must not be too easy, y’ know? And cooking for that many must take all day.  But…I bet their holidays are a blast…

For some reason this holiday season, I’m feeling “big family envy” more than ever.  Maybe it’s because it’s the first year my mom, who is 87 and lives 13 hours away, is choosing not to spend Christmas with us or any of her children.  (“I’m 87 years old,” she said, “and I don’t want to travel in winter weather, and I don’t want to worry about anyone else traveling to see me.”)  Maybe I’m missing Cleo, our French exchange student who lived with us from August 2010 to June 2011. Last Christmas was extra special with her here.  Or maybe it’s because we just hosted 18 of Andy’s extended family for Thanksgiving and I really enjoyed it, but they’re all doing different things for Christmas…

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for big families (definition: any family over 4 or 5 members), which I’ve written about briefly before.  I’m sure that admiration comes from the fact that I was raised as practically an only child (both my siblings are at least 10 years older and one has lived abroad for many years). And, I lived in a neighborhood containing hardly any other kids.  Some of my most cherished childhood memories come from the times I’d get to spend a week at my cousins’ house, or a few nights at my friend Ann’s house, 16 miles away from mine.  Ann was a girl I’d met at summer camp who lived in a really tiny town and was part of a big Catholic family with six kids, and when I was at her house, I felt like I’d walked right into both of my favorite TV shows, The Brady Bunch and The Waltons.  Her dad was the town milkman, and their garage was filled with, among other dairy items, ice cream bars and popsicles.  I ate dinner with her family, went to church with them, walked the few blocks to downtown, played games…it was heaven.  There was always something to do, always somebody sticking their head in Ann’s room to crack a joke or make a face. 

Freshman year of college was like that for me, too–  living on a dorm floor with 15 other girls from different backgrounds who didn’t know eachother previously, and becoming friends, walking in and out of eachother’s rooms to talk at all hours, eating dinner together in the cafeteria, playing cards, sharing one bathroom…heaven, I tell you.  And, bonus! My roommate came from a large, Italian Catholic family of EIGHT kids, with great names like Vera, Vito and Vince—very fun for me to go home with her on weekends!!!

So why didn’t Andy and I create our own big brood when we had the chance? Well, economics, for one.  And age, for another (we were both in our early 30s when we started).  And nerves, too.  I could barely keep my head on straight with two young children while working from home, and I could only imagine things completely falling apart if I had more to manage.  And so, we stopped at two.

Thank goodness my brother had three, two who have married and had children– and many of his bunch don’t live too far away.  So, often my bunch has gotten together with his bunch for a day or two over the holidays.  17 people (and 5 dogs) under one roof!!  Once again, heaven, even when everyone is doing different things.  Sometimes I’ll just catch my breath for a minute and soak it all in, that my family of origin has grown to this.  Some might be playing computer games or watching a movie, some are playing guitars, some are cooking, someone else is outside walking a dog or riding a bike, someone else is reading, someone else is snoring, someone else is singing in the tub…and then the laughter and talking when we all come together to eat.  It’s the rhythm of a big family, and it’s music to my ears. 

This year things are going to be different, with part of his bunch needing to spend the holiday with in-laws, Grandma going solo, and vacation times not all coinciding, but we’re trying to work out at least a day during the break when some of us can get together.  I hope we can.  Because if not, I may have to resign myself to popping some kettle corn, lighting a fire in the fireplace, and cozying up with my two teens in front of what they consider to be their favorite TV show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”.  The Kardashians may be far, far from Walton’s Mountain in many ways, but I’ll take my big families where I can get them.  

2 thoughts on “Jim Bob, John-Boy, and Me”

  1. Goosebumps again! I love how you end your pieces! And this one was especially special for me. I agree with you about big families. I hope Ryan and I have the nerves (and the time) to have 3. Maybe we should focus on 2 first. πŸ˜‰

    I too miss big family holiday celebrations. Luckily we’ll have Ryan’s whole family at our house for Christmas (we had them for Thanksgiving too and it was great). But I see everyone else as I can. Amanda’s coming THIS weekend for an early Christmas. Ha!

  2. Thank You So Much for all your thoughtful comments, today and in the past. I wish more people would take the time to write– even just a few words after each post would be great!! By the way, if I had written more in this post I was going to say something about how great it’s been to not only have more people in this clan, but more MALES, too, with Jon, Ryan and Evan added in the last 8 years.  Fun, fun!!!

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